Recently, Willow Creek hosted a conference for church leaders called The Global Leadership Summit (GLS). The two-day event is telecast from Willow’s campus near Chicago to hundreds of locations in North America involving over 300,000 people who are committed to becoming better leaders. GLS enlists the services of industry leading professionals as proven keynote speakers. This year, Patrick Lencioni returned to highlight his newest leadership publication in a longline of excellent works, “The Ideal Team Player.” This work focuses on three essential virtues: humble, hungry and smart. All three of these make up the essential virtues of an ideal team player.
As Christ followers, we know humility. We see humility personified in the person of Jesus. Yet, many leaders are less than humble. Lencioni states that a humble person lacks excessive ego, has no concern about status, is quick to point out the contributions of others, and is slow to seek attention. Humble leaders share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually. Humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.
The second virtue, hungry, refers to the individual’s deep, abiding desire to do more, to learn more, and to take on more responsibility. A hungry team player never has to be pushed to work harder. They are self-motivated, diligent, and constantly thinking about next steps. This leader takes on manageable, sustainable, projects and is committed to doing a good job—going above and beyond what’s normally required. Lencioni cautions that work can consumed a hungry person, if their entire identity is wrapped up in their task.
The final virtue is smart. Here, Lencioni is not necessarily referring to a person’s intelligence—like their ACT or GRE score—but rather their common sense about people and relationships. The ideal team player has the awareness to know what’s going on around them and the interpersonal skills to interact with others appropriately asking good questions and actively listening to what is said. This intuitive judgment, allows the ideal team player to grasp a group’s dynamics and understand how their actions and words affect others.
This GLS key-note address as well as Lencioni’s book caused me to reflect on my life and ministry. Looking at myself, I asked, “Am I humble, hungry and smart? In what area(s) am I effective, and in what area(s) do I need to grow?” Lecinoni’s three categories have also caused me to reflect on how I (and our denominational systems) evaluate others for ministry, for ordination, and for employment at a local church. Are these some of the virtues we look for? Does our interview processes allow us to evaluate these qualities? Using the components that Lencioni proposes for the ideal team player may help us develop future church leaders, as we partner with the Holy Spirit.